newsSchools & Higher Education

Penn to review policies following ‘Palestine Writes’ literary event

The university says it will also add antisemitism awareness training for staff and students.

A sign on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Credit: Sophia Zengierski/Shutterstock.
A sign on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Credit: Sophia Zengierski/Shutterstock.

Responding to the international outcry over a campus conference titled “Palestine Writes,” featuring antisemitic speakers over Rosh Hashanah weekend, administrators at the University of Pennsylvania say they are re-evaluating their speaker policies.

The school will conduct an unspecified “review” of its policies on when to grant facilities to outside groups while emphasizing that it would not seek to exclude speakers, wrote The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Still, Scott Bok, chair of Penn’s board of trustees, said that university leadership did not “want to be in the business of vetting and approving each of the few thousand of speakers” invited to campus, according to the article.

The school did ban antisemitic rocker Roger Waters from attending, prompting the former Pink Floyd frontman to send his message via an Instagram video, despite his flying in specially for the event.

In response, Susan Abulhawa, executive director of the festival, said “there was not a single moment or statement of care for Penn’s Palestinian students who have been marginalized and maligned and subjected to violent propaganda year after year.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Penn’s leadership had failed, stressing that the university had chosen not to condemn the speakers’ antisemitism “in a clear and cogent way.” He further described the university’s hosting of the event rather than sponsoring it as a “difference without a distinction.”

Administrators also announced a pledge to start antisemitism awareness education for both staffers and students.
“Will be happy to see if @Penn learns the mistakes & failures that led to the granting of permission to hold the racist & antisemitic ‘Palestine Writes’ event on campus,” Arsen Ostrovsky, the CEO of the International Legal Forum, posted on social media.

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